Monday, December 03, 2007

The Christmas Spirit

Despite having to watch out for ice on the side walks, ice on the road, ice on my nose (okay, I had to rhyme!), there are some very cool things about this season.

For example, yesterday I was shopping at Wal-mart. I was in the board game section picking out new games for my two "grandkids." MaKayla and Audrie-Onna are 6 and 3. They are the kids of Kayleigh, former teen mom and my adopted daughter. Every Sunday they come over after church and guess what they want to do? Play MEMORY. (You know the game in which you flip over cards for matches?) We play this 4-5 times every Sunday and I ALWAYS lose! So, I decided to get some new games like Candyland and Hi-Ho Cherrio. Maybe they'll like those as much as MEMORY. Maybe I'll have a chance to win :-)

Anyway, that was a complete rabbit trail to tell you that while I was in the board game section there was Christmas music playing ... and I got to sing along as they sang about JESUS. That is one very cool thing about the holidays.

Another cool thing is what people call "holiday spirit," which is another way to say that everyone is on their best behavior. They smile. They say, "Merry Christmas." They give more. Love more. Think of others more than other times of the year.

I've been thinking about this lately--this whole thing about being on our best behavior. Let me tell you why.

On Monday nights we have small group at our house. It's just five couples--all friends--who get together to study the Bible, watch Bible-based DVDs, and talk about life. We have varied and interesting talks that are really fun and engaging. This Monday we watched a video from the Institute of Creation Research. We're a pro-creation group and we had some good discussion.

I have to admit I'm not a big "science" person. Give me the tiniest bit of opportunity to marvel at what God has created and I'll do it. I'm just not big into have to know all the "whys" and "hows" behind it. It works. It's intricately designed. Hallelujah!

But there was something that really stood out to me, and that was how some people believe EVERYTHING was created from NOTHING. It's crazy enough to think about the flowers, birds, trees, and people coming from nothing. But then on the video the guy also talked about something else. If EVERYTHING came from NOTHING that means everything--our personalities, the knowledge of good and evil, our morals, our abilities, literature, music, dance, art ... did too. If everything created came from nothing (which I don't believe) then those intangible things did too. Which when you think about literature, master plots, master characters, the character's journey, and how we "expect" things from books naturally, then it's crazy to think that somehow that is "in there, in all of us" too.

Which brings me back to Christmas. I was reading in Ladies' Home Journal, December 2007, and the article was called Have Heart. The subtitle is: At this time of year we are asked again (and again) to be generous and giving. Choose wisely and you'll be blessed with less stress, better health and a feel-good "helper's high."

Here is a quote from that article. It's quoting Christopher Peterson, Ph.D., coauthor of Character Strengths and Virtues: "Being generous is simply being true to our inherent nature, which is deeply social." The author of the article Margaret Renkl goes on to say, "Biologically speaking, we are social animals--naked, fangless creatures who are cooperate in procuring food, carry our young in our arms and sleep cuddled up to one another. We need other humans for survival, so we are programmed to be concerned for the welfare of our tribe. If we genuinely apprehend another person's need, we happily write checks for hurricane relief, ladle soup at a homeless shelter, take supper to a shut-in, lend a sympathetic ear to a friend in the midst of divorce, bake cookies for the PTA. Sure, these acts sometimes arise more our of good manners or a sense of obligation than pure generosity. But whether we give because we sincerely want to or because we think we should doesn't much matter. What matters is that we feel compelled: Even if we aren't conscious of it, at some atavistic level we understand that the well-being of others affects our own well-being."

The author continues:

"Evidence suggests that this impulse to give aid and comfort arises out of our very DNA. In fact, so many studies in psychology, sociology and biology have corroborated this hypothesis ..."

The author goes on to talk about how giving gives us a helper's high, lowers stress hormones, strengthens our immune systems, and gives us a longer life. And the author says that once you start such "acts of grace" the response you get from others--a smile, a thank you, etc. will reinforce the habit of generosity.

Personally, I believe our personality, our care for others, our "knowing" that giving is good, our "feeling" that right is ... uh, right ... is as wonderful to marvel over as the complexity of the single cell.

The "Christmas spirit" it's a cool thing to behold. But it's an even cooler thing to realize the Creative Spirit of God behind it.

So ... what do you think about that?

The spirit of Christmas needs to superseded by the Spirit of Christ. The spirit of Christmas is annual; the Spirit of Christ is eternal. The spirit of Christmas is sentimental; the Spirit of Christ is supernatural. The spirit of Christmas is a human product; the Spirit of Christmas is a divine person. That makes all the difference in the world.
~~Stuart Briscoe,

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